WPSU

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great Minds With But a Single Thought: Solar Boat!

Why name your boat
"Electric Fisherman"?
Going after electric eels?
From Manatee Pocket, our next stop was Fort Pierce, a town that's invested lots of money in a tastefully spruced-up downtown that, for all its colorful stucco buildings, felt like a ghost town. An exuberantly modern city hall, loads of public art, and . . .  no one to enjoy it, except the handful of homeless men basking on waterfront park benches.


Leaving the next morning, we spotted the boat at right.  My first guess:  Homage on the 70s movie "Electric Horseman" (you remember, starring Robert Redford as a washed-up former rodeo star riding around in a light-bulb-studded suit that lit up like Liberace?)  


Then, I wondered: Could  Electric Fisherman be an electric-powered boat, like ours?  No, said the guy on the dock, who hosing down the hull.  It's just that the boat used to belong to a guy who was an electrician.


There IS a guy in Florida who's famous for his electric boat. A fellow Looper, Allan Goode, told us about Rueben Trane, a Miami-based boat builder who designed the "Island Pilot DSe Hybrid" (that's cool-speak for "diesel-electric hybrid"). Trane is known for his luxury cruising boats, but he got the idea to go solar back when fuel prices went crazy in 2006.


Click this link to check the boat out.  The parent company, Island Pilot, uses the slogan "Let the Sun Set You Free!" to bill this luxurious trawler as "America's First Hybrid Yacht Using Solar - Diesel - Electric  Drive. (Clearly the marketing department had not heard of SlowBoat, which is also an innovative diesel-electric hybrid.)


I was curious to see how the DSe stacked up against OUR vessel. The two are similar in length: 41 feet for Dragonfly versus 39.5 feet for the DSe.   


Both have their roofs entirely covered with solar panels.  


And other items on the DSe's spec sheet make the two boats sound curiously alike:


"5 knots cruising speed"--check
"Two staterooms, each with ensuite head"--check
"Efficient, fuel-free living on the hook"--check
"Solar Controller"--check 
48-volt DC lead-acid battery array--check
Electric permanent-magnet motor--check  


Dragonfly has ALL these amenities.  And like the DSe in one of the glossy ads, it comes equipped with a woman in a bathing suit posed decoratively on deck.  Wouldn't you say the two boats compare rather favorably? 


OK, OK, so our vessel does NOT have an entertainment center with a 26" LCD TV . . .  a Bose home theater . . . . a galley with convection oven plus ice-making refrigerator . . .  four zones of air conditioning . . .  or the gyro autopilot (though we do have a bungee cord to hold the tiller in place).   


And yes, it is sadly true, you can NOT use a wireless remote control to drive our boat from bed while enjoying the 270-degree view out of your panorama windows . . . as the designers claim you can with the DSe.


On the other hand, I really enjoyed the promotional magazine articles about this boat which (unlike most articles in high-end yachting magazines) positively raved about the joys of going slow.  


Finally, whereas the DSe costs about as much as a mansion (and was featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel's "World's Most Expensive Rides,")  the Dragonfly costs about as much as a garage.  


We're doing OK without the icemaker.

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